Mason Earth Week Draws Big Numbers

Posted: April 25, 2011 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: April 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

By Dave Andrews

The 2011 edition of Earth Week at Mason featured more events and drew more attendees than ever before, according to organizers. A total of 39 environmental activities took place.

“Our goal wasn’t necessarily to be bigger, but rather to reach an even wider audience than we have in previous years. Fortunately, we were able to do both this year,” says Colin Bennett, sustainability outreach coordinator.

In the past, most of the events were hosted on the Fairfax Campus, but this year, the Arlington and Prince William Campuses saw much more action.

Bennett says the Environmental Expo held on the North Plaza of the Johnson Center was easily the largest event, attracting more than 1,000 people.

This year’s Earth Week also had more recycling and trash pickup opportunities than in previous years. One of the events, coordinated by the Mason Inn, had hotel employees picking up trash along Route 123 and Braddock Road for three hours.

“You’d be surprised what you’ll find along the road and in those woods,” says Stephanie Morehead, sales manager at the Mason Inn and campus cleanup participant. Morehead says that most of the garbage consisted of bags and wrappers from fast-food restaurants. The group also found several shoes and socks and numerous empty bottles and cans.

In all, the group filled nearly three dozen large garbage bags. “We all definitely felt like we did our good deed for the day,” Morehead says.

One of the other events that created substantial buzz was a presentation by featured speaker Tim DeChristopher, a Utah man who was convicted last month of two felony charges for misrepresenting himself and placing bogus bids at a federal oil and gas lease auction.

As a way to protest U.S. policies, DeChristopher bid on 149,000 acres of Utah desert that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was offering to oil and gas drillers.

Since DeChristopher’s conviction, he has received a great deal of media attention as well as support from fellow environmental advocates. While at Mason, he spoke to a packed room in the Johnson Center to describe his ordeal and inspire others into action.

“DeChristopher has become an eco-celebrity in that he used the media as a way to raise awareness about his cause,” says Bennett. “That was really inspiring to hear a firsthand account of someone who put his freedom on the line for something that he strongly believed in.”

Mason students involved with the Environmental Action Group (EAG) also brought in residents of the Appalachian Mountain region who recently created a documentary about mountaintop removal called “The Electricity Fairy.” The director and one of the film’s featured activists provided commentary for a large Mason audience in the Johnson Center after the film’s screening.

The Office of Sustainability encouraged people throughout the week to sign Mason’s climate pledge, which promotes Mason’s commitment to climate neutrality, hoping to inspire environmental advocacy year round.


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